From governments to Times Square: Hongbao marketing for Chinese New Year 2016

In a recent post, we look at Hongbao marketing and how effective it was in 2015. Hongbao, the red envelopes filled with ‘lucky money’ and traditionally given to singletons and children, have gone digital in recent years. Sina Weibo and WeChat have been two of the social messaging services to offer their users the ability to send these digital gifts to one another during times of celebration.

Hongbao stats for Chinese New Year 2016

Companies had some pretty big expectations when it came to using Hongbao as part of digital marketing in China plans. Ali pay had 800 million yuan to give away, while $.10 platforms planned to distribute a combined 200 million yuan in digital Hongbao. It was anticipated that consumers would be equally generous as well. Last year, WeChat saw 1 billion Hongbao sent during the lunar New Year period, and expects that the year of the monkey will be welcomed amid a flurry of 10 billion Hongbao. Chinese users sent 2.3 billion in digital lucky red envelopes to celebrate the beginning of 2016 (source: Xinhuanet).

Companies are quickly cottoned on to the vast potential of Hongbao marketing. It gives them away to generate excitement and engagement with their brand, while tying in to a high profile event. Let’s take a look at some more ways companies used Hongbao marketing in order to celebrate Chinese New Year 2016.

The Chinese government

The Chinese government’s Organisation Department found a great way to use president Xi Jinping’s New Year address to build a social following for the Communist Party of China. In the run-up to New Year they created a WeChat account, those who watched the presidents New Year greetings would be able to use key phrases from his speeches to unlock Digital Hong Bao. The government distributed ¥300,000 over the festival period. Regional governments at some of China’s largest cities also got involved with similar promotions (source: Cnanhui News).

WeChat in Times Square

As part of their Chinese New Year 2016 celebrations, WeChat ran a campaign which involved billboard advertising and their messenger app. WeChat users who were in Times Square between 4 and 9 PM on the first, second, seventh or eighth of February could shake their phone in front of the digital billboard for their chance to win hongbao of ‘lucky money’. The campaign used WeChat shake feature, which lets users find others nearby to talk to (source: Nasdaq).

Is Hongbao marketing finished in till 2017?

Chinese New Year may see the largest volume of Hongbao sent and received, but there are many other celebrations for which it is relevant, making it a useful tool when digital marketing in China. 500 million Hongbao was sent on children’s Day, while the Chinese Valentine’s Day saw 1.4 billion Hongbao exchanged, while 2.2 billion digital red envelopes were gifted during the mid Autumn Festival (source: Nasdaq). So if Hongbao marketing seems a good idea to you, you have plenty of opportunities over the coming year to put it to good use.

(Image source: Image created by Rattikankeawpun |